War protests smaller, quieter

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11430554868467.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of www.workers.org’, ‘Organized by "Troops Out Now Coalition", protesters in New York City marched up Fifth Avenue March 18 to mark the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and three years of occupation, calling for an "immediate withdrawel of foreign occupation troops from Iraq."’);

The third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq passed quietly last weekend in sharp contrast to the huge, noisy and sometimes violent global protests of that war in 2003. Is the anti-war movement running out of steam?

Millions protested and marched in 2003, but this year’s turnout was very much smaller and more subdued. No total figures are available, but a mere 800 turned out in Japan, where 2,000 had rallied the day before. In New York City, a skimpy group of 200 marched down Fifth Avenue. The turnout in Chicago was estimated at about 7,500.

In Melbourne, Fla. about 200 protestors gathered in a park to wave signs, chant and hear speeches. Financial Times reported next to nothing took place in Washington, D.C., in the way of anti-war activity. Tourists still gathered outside the White House to get their photos taken with a cardboard cutout of President George W. Bush. Police stood guard outside Vice President Dick Cheney’s home.

The Financial Times commented: “Americans may have turned decisively against the war in Iraq in recent months, but their change of heart has been largely expressed quietly to pollsters rather than in loud public protests. The micro-protests that have taken place around the anniversary—including a few hundred who gathered to hear anti-war speeches in the affluent D.C. neighborhood of DuPont Circle—pale by comparison with the monster demonstrations against the Vietnam War.”

Financial Times suggested that part of the reason for the subdued national response to the war is that the economic consequences have yet to reach the man on the street. Consumption continues at a rapid pace, and there’s little sign of inflation. Americans also haven’t been asked to cough up more cash for the war effort. The administration has opted for more borrowing rather than higher taxes.

As of last Friday, our military losses had reached 2,315 killed and 17,100 wounded, but it still falls far short of the 58,000 we lost in Vietnam. The toll of civilians in Iraq has been calculated at nearly 180,000. Nearly 60 percent of Americans oppose the war, and Bush and Cheney are beginning a campaign to boost support.

Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, writing on counterpunch.org, said: “Across the past year, the peace movement didn’t do much, so far as we could tell, but was bailed out by two great champions who changed the political picture. The first was Cindy Sheehan, who haunted the man [Venezuela’s] Hugo Chavez taunts as ‘the king of vacations’ for those crucial weeks in the late summer of 2005, outside his ranch in Texas. (Has any president ever had a worse stretch than Bush did between the founding of Sheehan’s Camp Casey, through Hurricane Katrina, to the exposure of the domestic spying program, with Cheney shooting one of their top fund-raisers as lagniappe [something extra].)

“The second champion was Jack Murtha, the 73-year-old former U.S. Marine and life-long hawk who turned on the war in a sensational press conference on the Hill in November, calling for ‘immediate withdrawal,’ and repeating that call in vigorous interviews and speeches. Murtha effortlessly swatted down the Republican libels of him and the usual devious efforts to undercut him from prime-time hawks like CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.”

In San Francisco, demonstrators filled about eight city blocks, according to KGO-TV; while across the bay in Walnut Creek, approximately 1,000 people showed up for an anti-war demonstration.

One protester said: “The crowd is not large enough. American citizens should be on the streets protesting because our Constitution allows it. I am opposed to everything this administration stands for.”

Across Florida, the turnout was moderate with only about 60 people appearing outside City Hall in Orlando to wave signs and chant.

Overseas, police in South Korea said about 1,000 people turned out for a protest. They demanded that their country recall its 3,200 troops from Iraq. It is the largest troop contingent in Iraq after the U.S. and Britain. In Tokyo, anti-war rallies went into a second day with an estimated 800 demonstrators marching to the U.S. Embassy. One day earlier, there were about 2,000 at a rally in Tokyo.

In Toronto, 1,000 protesters collected in front of a courthouse across the street from the U.S. Consulate in Canada’s largest anti-war rally, according to The Calgary Sun. In Ottawa, the paper said, dozens of demonstrators assembled two blocks from Parliament and then at the National Gallery to object to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Other rallies involved several hundred protesters in Halifax, Montreal and Vancouver. Police in London said 15,000 people marched from the Houses of Parliament to Trafalgar Square. Last year’s protests in London drew a crowd of 45,000.

From the March 22-28, 2006, issue

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